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44 miles. 12. 5 average. Journey’s end. 2038 miles since we cycled by the placque in Mobile, Alabama, that indicated where the slave market had been, to the Black History Cairn in Owen Sound.


The last time we were on the bike. We’d shed all our equipment for one of the prettiest days of riding we’ve had. And biiiiiiig climbs, too. Silly me, I thought it would be easy without BOB and all his buddies! I was still pushing and puffing.


Follow the Drinking Gourd which pointed the way north. (Click on the picture for the fullsize (2 megabyte), readable version.)


This really brought it home to me. Every summer in August, for the past 145 years, there is an Emancipation Festival in Harrison Park where this monument is. History is still alive in Owen Sound.


Many of the stones in this cairn were donated by many of the states along the Underground Railroad, “The Free State of Maine,” “The former Slave State of Maryland…”


The floor of the cairn represents quilt squares used for messages and signals along the Underground Railroad.

Imagine, people fleeing all those hundreds and thousands of miles to find freedom in Canada. I found this little monument to be so very moving. And I hope that I am not sounding corny, but I wish every American could learn the history we’ve learned. And I wish every African American could understand the courage of their ancestors to have survived such a system and to hope and strive for something better. I have learned such respect for all these people.

So. It was quite a journey. It’s hard to end a trip like this. It’s bittersweet. Sweet because the goal we’ve been reaching for over 48 days has been achieved. Bitter because tomorrow I won’t be getting on my bicycle, and all our new friends will be scattering to their corners of the world. But the sweetest of all! 2038 miles and NO FLAT TIRES!!! No problems at all with the bicycle. It faithfully shifted endlessly and carried us over all those hills. The ride today was great in warm sunny weather, tail winds, beautiful farm country, a light load and arrival at a significant historic landmark. Journey’s end. Joan and Ilkka

Collingwood, Ontario

61.5 miles. 12.0 Ave. Getting out of Orangeville was interesting for all of the cyclists this morning. It had nearly everything you could ask for! About six miles of white knuckle riding on the usual two-lane, no shoulder road in rush hour traffic with a big climb into the wind! All this and wondering if we had gone the wrong way because the turn never seemed to show up, and everyone we asked had never heard of the road we were looking for. I swear Adventure Cycling checked these routes out at 6:00 AM on a Sunday, and said, “This would be a great route out of town!” And after we turned off, it was a long slog into the wind.

Except for Leader Dave, the Adv. Cyclists were ahead of us and so was Robert. Dave, Ilkka, and I caught up with them as they were leaving a bakery that smelled like heaven, so we went in for lunch. It was as good as it smelled, especially after the woman making the sandwiches ran down the street after some customers who had mistakenly made off with my lunch! She was very nice, giving us all bottled water when we asked if we could fill our bottles.

Out into the countryside. Finally! Rural Ontario. And guess what, ladies and gentlemen! With one exception of a fur ball with teeth who so surprised me that I didn’t have a chance to get the spray out of the Captain’s pocket, Canadian farm dogs just stand there and look at you, or bark at you, but they don’t chase! Now there’s a potential Ph.D. research topic: Why Southern Dawgs Feel Compelled to Try to Eat Cyclists Alive.

The last 12 miles into Collingwood looked to be all downhill. Well, not exactly. There were still a few rollers to be had. It was beautiful cycling through the Pretty Valley River Provincial Park. Some lovely country out here.

Into Collingwood to the Holiday Inn, and there was our car. Erik has driven up to take us home and to lighten our load for the last day’s ride into Owen Sound. And with the car, we could pick up beer and take it out to the Adventure Cyclists and Robert who are camped out in a provincial park on the shores of Lake Huron. Brrr. It’s going to be cold tonight out there! Heat’s gone.

Imagine. We’ve cycled through eight states, two countries, and along the shores of three of the five Great Lakes. What a trip it has been! Tomorrow, our goal for the past seven weeks. Owen Sound!


Left to right: New Zealand Dave, Leader Dave, Thomas, Larry, Ilkka, Joan, Aussie Robert, Tim, George, and beautiful Lake Huron behind us.

Joan

Orangeville, Ontario

44 miles. 10.5 ave. Wow. Only two days left, and then the countdown begins for exiting Ontario. Someone in Boston was recently saying how much he detested Ontario. “Oh!” said I, “We just love Canada, especially the Maritimes.” But he was sure right about Ontario.

Another stressful day of two lane, no shoulder, truck, and heavy traffic hell. What was with Adventure Cycling to send us on this route? Basically I’m watching backwards in the mirror all the time, and when a car/truck comes to go by us, I stick out my arm, thus giving them the option of moving over or taking off my arm, and thus distracting them from pushing us off the road. Not for their lack of trying, believe me!

But the very good news is bye-bye heat wave! Of course we got rained on most of the day, but I’ll take that over heat and ferocious headwinds any time. We had to take refuge a few times on the porches of friendly people. Some good climbs, too, including one walker. Erik is going to meet us tomorrow and sag our stuff for the last day. I wonder what that will feel like to go over the mountain without a hundred extra pounds.

Ran into Tim and Dave along the road. They are part of the Adv. Cycling group. They said they were staying in the Norpeel Motel and invited us to join them, along with Robert whom we haven’t seen since Oberlin. Terrific! One last party.

So we finally find the place. Ye gods! It’s below Armpit Inn. Crotch Inn? Toe Jam Inn?  We go into the office, and I really know we’re in trouble when the little old wizzened man behind the desk smiles a one-toothed grin and says to me, “You look pretty!” Say what? I’m covered in road grime and there’s water dripping off my helmet onto my runny nose…Only one double left, and it’s a smoking room. He gives us a key to check it out. Can I bear one last night of squalor for the sake of comradeship? Fortunately we can’t get the key to open the door; and about that time Tim announces that their shower is full of mold, and they can’t stay there. Seems they will go to the Best Western down the road. We head for the same, which, when we get there costs about as much as the past two nights put together! If this is how inflation looks, look out USA! Clearly the guys won’t be here, and I don’t know where they’ve ended up. Goodbye party! Bummer.

At least the sun is coming out and the sky is blue. We saw a nice rainbow this morning, and our last two days of riding look to be pleasant, cool weather.  Ilkka seems to be fully recovered. Nothing like three litres of IV saline and a night in the ER to fix a man right up! Joan

Unexpected rest day. Last night at the motel Ilkka was felled (literally) by heat exhaustion and dehydration. This resulted in a 10:30 ambulance ride to the hospital, an overnight stay, lots of tests, and 3 litres of saline drip. And a night in a chair by his gurney for me.
 
But now all’s well. He’s feeling much better, and the fact that we are out in the middle of nowhere near the provincial highway means an enforced rest day. Doc recommended plenty of rest with no biking, but the Captain says we’ll be off again tomorrow.

I had thought of using our last rest day either if there were a rainy day (as the weatherfolk constantly predict but never happens), or relaxing at a campsite in Collingwood in a provincial park by the lake. However, given that it is again very hot, and the windiest day yet (30-40 kph), it’s just as well we aren’t out there. Plus, I think we are about to have a big t-storm. The sky is getting interesting out there! I wonder if the wind always blows here like this? Joan

Milton, Ontario

58.6 miles
Ohhhh, Canada!?! Womantours, with its component of 30 riders, is endng its tour in Buffalo. After two days of riding in Ontario, Ilkka and I agreed that except for missing Niagara Falls which we saw at the lovely hour of 7:30 AM, would be a shame to miss; but skipping this part is perhaps the way to go.

When someone asked Aussie Robert why he was doing this trip, he replied that he wanted to see rural America. Well, we’ve certainly seen rural America, but we’ve been in the greater Toronto area all day now. Complete with no-shoulder busy roads, agressive drivers, and Factory World.

Now every day I’m on my bike is a good day, but this one was on the edge a few times! It remains egg-frying hot. 90 degrees with the heat-index (Humidex, they call it here) of over 105. (41 C. for those of you who speak Canadian.)

Expensive, now that the dollar has fallen. $117 for a….Super 8?!? $31 for a skeeter-infested campground?

We spent a fair chunk of the day lost–mostly our own fault because we decided to ride the service road from off-route in Grimsby where we spent last night, and ride through Hamilton rather than climb the ridge, go down in Dundas, and up again.

When we finally made it to Dundas, we had weird directions to the rail trail. (Look for the “Bad Temper” restaurant (Crabby Joes), ride to the right side and the back and walk down a 10 foot path. A cyclist on a mountain bike saw us looking confused and offered to lead us to the trail. But he didn’t know how to access it either, and led us hither and yon until I finally convinced the Captain to follow my directions.

So our new friend decided to accompany us with a monologue the entire way. Was he a liberal? (“One of the good things about Canada, compared to the US, are our gun laws.”) Or a Redneck? He approved of Bush and His War: “Somebody has to take a stick to ‘em!” Yakity yak as Ilkka navigated this rail trail that was making me quite unhappy as it was a packed dirt road and I was petrified we’d go down. Navigator to Captain, “We’re going to be on this for a mile.” New friend, yak yak yak. Navigator, “We should have found Ogilvy Road by now.” (New friend was clueless.) We finally came to an old railroad station where we took a break, and sure enough. We’re almost 2 1/2 miles beyond our turn. Back we go. Six miles on the scary trail instead of one.

Best was yet to come. Adventure Cycling’s detour that took us up The Hill from Hell. This is the Niagara Escarpment we are climbing here, folks. Former route was climbing 600 feet over about 9 miles. Detour took us up in about a mile. In the heat. It was a walker, but still unbelievably hot hot hot!

Good news for the day. Found a Dairy Queen. Found an A&W in a convience store and had a Root Beer float! Found a Best Western that’s even more than the Super 8, but we’re not boiling and scratching in a campground! Joan

63 miles, 11.2 avg.
After a quick and early getaway from the campground to minimize the mosquito bites we got off to a leisurely ride along the  rapidly flowing Niagara River. Almost a mile away we saw the mist rising up from the falls below but it wasn’t until we rode up right next to the enormous volume of water cascading over the edge that the magnificence of these falls hit us. Especially this early in the morning, without the hordes of tourists on the lookouts, we got to experience the thrill of seeing, hearing and feeling the power and beauty that so many people, especially honeymooners come here for.

Since we plan to come back here next week with Erik (and a car) we continued along the trail up to Niagara on the Lake. Amazing how many people, including a large group of teenagers were bicyling on this long, scenic bikepath. Great to see so much interest in the sport.

Later in the day we were riding westward when we came to the Welland Canal which has a series of eight locks that allow great big ships to descend some 330 feet from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. As we rode up to it a ship the size of a towering building was blocking the road with the bridge up. Quite a sight to see it very slowly moving across until it came to a stop at the locks and then was lowered down some 50 feet below us.

So now we’re comfortably at a Super 8 looking forward (?) to an early climb up a high ridge which is across from the highway that our window faces. But that’s tomorrow and until then we’ll dream about all the hills and valleys we have conquered on the 1800 miles to date. Ilkka (And hope we can get away early enough to avoid the blistering heat and headwinds that have been plaguing us the past two days. Joan)

Niagra, Ontario

35 miles. Whoa! It went directly from chilly spring to Hot summer! Early 90s and humid. Add in hot, hard headwinds, and it certainly is different than what we’ve had for the past several weeks.

We got off to a late start this AM because we wanted to be sure to see the Pedaling History museum in Orchard Park NY. Scores of old bikes and great history. And of course the proprietor not only opened up early for us, but he also knew Bob Sawyer, a very young Octogenerian we often ride with on Wednesday Wheeler rides. I’m finding that Bob is famed from Florida to New York!

Then off to Canada across the Peace Bridge. Not the most peaceful crossing but we were on the sidewalk and made it fine.

After lunch in Fort Erie, who do we see but new cycling friends Murielle and Roland, and we are now camped with them and about 52,000 mosquitoes along the Niagara River, after one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a new “fusion” restaurant.

It’s Friday, and Canadians love to camp. They are piling in, so it will be interesting to see if there is any sleep to be had tonight! Joan

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